Thursday, August 8, 2013

Relationship Building

So, today was the last formal meeting I am scheduled to have with a staff member within the university whose job is to worry about organizational development and leadership coaching.  After first meeting the coach in March (more or less just before taking my new administrative position on a full time basis), I have met with the coach probably a half dozen times or so.  My progression from the first meeting--in which I was asked to tell my story and I spent much of the 90 minutes talking about how I had gotten to where I was, what I was focused on, and the thoughts I had of what the position was--to this meeting--in which my coach pointed out that I spent an hour talking about relationship building--has been an interesting one.

When I took the position of Vice Dean for Education, I was thinking that the biggest challenges would be coordinating programs, building an online educational effort, and working with scheduling.  What I forgot when I talked to people about the position before I started full time was that none of that happens without relationships.

So, today, I spent all my time talking about the importance of relationships.  Relationships being built between me and the rest of the staff within the the Office of Education.  Relationships between other individuals in the Office of Education.  Relationships I am building with other units within the school.  The importance of each relationship.  The importance of walking around the floor that contains most of the administrative offices.  The importance of traveling between floors that will house administrative offices once we move to two floors.  The importance of relationships with students.  And how to build those relationships.

Following on my comments yesterday about idealism, intimacy, and depth, what this reflects is the desire to engage (intimacy) and at more than a surface level (depth).  I noted in conversation with the coach that even little changes make a difference.  One example--changing from staying mostly in my office to walking around my group and others.  I have noticed that I have shifted from just saying "hi" to saying "hi" or "good morning" or "how are you" and addressing people by name.  This is the type of activity that starts the relationship building process.  I will continue to do so by not rushing lunch while sitting at my computer ever day but using it (at least some days) as a time to meet, chat, and continue to build relationships that need to be nourished for things to get done.

If you had asked me when I was trying to get tenure in my last job within the university whether I would ever have pictured myself spending an hour talking about ways to build and strengthen relationships, I would have said no.  But, now this is what I realize I have to do as a lead up to getting the work done.  Without positive relationships, the work will not get done.  Positive relationships are not all that is needed but they lay the groundwork for what needs to be done.  And as a person in a leadership role, I spend a lot of time thinking about relationships.

And the importance of relationships in the real world has spilled over into the rest of my life.  Of course, relationships are key in marriage.  Spouses with each other.  Each with kids.  Along kids.

I have shifted to less Facebook posting.  More time talking with my kids.  More time going for dessert together over the past several weeks.  More time walking the dog--seeing who is around--stopping to say hello.

I continue to be amazed at how my work life themes and personal life themes tie together.

And relationships are key throughout.  

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